I’ll never forget my first bike. I was close to six years old. It had a pink banana seat, streamers on the handlebars, and a white basket to carry all the necessities a first grader could possibly need. It had training wheels, and my daddy promptly removed them when I woke one morning telling him I had dreamed I could ride my bike. As it turns out, dreams do come true. Off came the training wheels and thus began a beautiful experience of life on two wheels. For me, time on the bike is time to prepare for my chosen sport, and when I can, it’s a better option to travel to meetings with colleagues or friends.
We’re so fortunate in the Upstate to have both beautiful roads to tour by bike, and the option, for those who either choose or by necessity, to commute by bike. Greenville has become known as a cycling destination, with many professional athletes, coaches, and enthusiasts choosing our community for their new home due to the availability of prime training on our mountain roads. Further, we’re seeing a steady influx of newcomers to Greenville who are bringing their families here, and for many of them, travel by bike is both the necessity and the norm.
As our culture shifts and we welcome this new normal of bikes and people sharing our roads, we have to become more aware, both as drivers and cyclists. You see, there’s more to a bike on the road than a slow object interfering with your commute. It’s actually a person. A living, breathing, human being. I’m a daughter, a wife, a mommy, an employee, a friend, a niece, a grand-daughter, a volunteer, a mentor. The list goes on. The ripple effect of lives impacted when a cyclist is hit and injured or killed just cannot be measured.
A few days ago, in our neighboring Spartanburg County, a cyclist was hit by a car and killed. We know he was a father, in his thirties, and that he leaves behind a wife and a young child. It shakes the cycling community to its core when this happens. We know our hobby, our sport, our passion, and for some our profession, carries an inherent danger. Though, perhaps like that six year old with her first banana seat bike, we all carry that child like innocence that makes us believe drivers will yield to us and we’ll be safe. Because, for anyone who has experienced the beauty of life on two wheels, it is an experience that cannot be replaced. It is the sights, sounds, and smells of our beautiful mountain roads, from Furman to Hotel Domestique early on a Saturday morning, before anyone else has had their first cup of coffee. It’s the exhaustion of your first thirty, forty, fifty, or hundred mile ride, and the immediate desire to do more. It’s child like and it’s freeing.
If you ask me, Greenville has a very respectful culture for people on bikes. Much of the renaissance of our downtown, and the revitalization of Travelers Rest has been supported by people on bikes, and biking has been a very positive contributor to our local economy. If we are to continue on the path of being a desirable, safe, welcoming city, we must continue to respect all road users in our community.
The next time you’re headed down the road and you come upon a cyclist, please think about that six year old, barreling down her driveway, streamers flying in the wind, eyes watering from the first true experience of pure speed. Slow down, and give her three feet when you pass. Because, when she gets home and cools down from her training ride, she goes back to reality, and back to being Mommy.
Meredith Rigdon is the Vice Chair for Bike Walk Greenville and a road cyclist and triathlete. She is Senior Manager for Corporate Communications at Sealed Air, a Trek Bicycle Women’s Advocate, a wife, mom, and Greenville native.